Owes Its Stars
April 24, 18891
With the departure of Frau Kupfer we have a gap in a category of role for which our local "forces" have proven so highly qualified that a box office attraction such as, for example, Lohengrin would have to molder in the archives, did not the lovely custom of guest engagements — conferring honorary citizenship or even honorary membership on both foreign and indigenous artists — prevent such a disaster.
Instead of seeking a unified ensemble and an intelligent grasp of a given work, in order thus to salvage even for the less successful individual performance the semblance of totality, and aiming for a conception as nearly ideal as possible with the artists at hand, we get precisely the opposite. With stamina and dedication worthy of the noblest objective, one concerns oneself not only with the engagement of mediocre singers or with their retention; one is at pains to diffuse even this slender endowment of artistic resources — which, properly conserved, might yield substantial dividends — to cater to egotism, and to stifle any sense of common purpose and enterprise. To raise the dignity and artistic stature of our opera will require drastic reforms if its stage is not soon to resemble a gypsy camp where everyone does as he pleases, and if art is to mean more to its servants than merely a bubbling kettle of soup satisfying the meanest appetite.
One speaks in glowing terms of our company's stars, and of how they bring it honor and glory. It seems to me rather that such praise is hardly flattering to the institution itself. One would have to assume that it implies reciprocity, which is by no means the case. Frau Materna, for example, is considered a precious jewel of our opera house, but what has the opera house to offer Frau Materna? Expectancy of an eventual honorary membership? Assuming such expectancy to be well founded, the relationship remains one-sided because —